Color Bars

The Importance of Exploring (and Some Tips on Getting Started)

When working with younger designers I often try to impress the importance of exploring your craft. Which sounds like obvious advice, but, is often an exercise we don’t do enough or practice intentionally.

Design as a discipline can become formulaic (concept, refine, repeat – x 100), which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, practice makes perfect; and design requires constant practice to build a designer’s aesthetic, creative, critical-thinking and creative execution skills.

But this doesn’t always mean that practice will foster creative growth. After a while, practicing the same thing over and over again can get us stuck in a rut and worse, limit our perspective.

So if practice makes perfect, exploring gives us the opportunity to redefine the meaning of perfect.

At NST, we’re constantly pushing ourselves and our clients to explore and this certainly applies when it comes to design and creative work. Exploration gives us a break from style guides, creative briefs and client demands. It provides the opportunity to do, make, build and design what feels and looks good to you. It’s an important part of how we learn and grow as creatives in a client-facing, service-oriented industry.

And who knows? Some of what you learn through your own exploration may unearth fresh perspectives and design elements that translate perfectly into client projects.

So how can you push yourself out of your design comfort zone and be a better explorer? Here are some tips:


Set aside a specific time and date to explore your craft. Whether that’s an hour once a week, or a three-day retreat once a year, honor your commitment and challenge yourself to focus solely on exploration for that space and time.

Embrace failure and be kind to yourself

The whole point of exploring your craft is to discover new skills or talents you didn’t know you had or experimenting with the ones you have been wanting to grow. It’s likely (let’s be honest – a given) that what you produce may not be any good your first time around. That’s OK and should be part of the process. Take every failure as a learning opportunity to see and identify what you can do better in the future. Let this exploration guide you to new skills and creative ways of thinking.

Also, remember to be kind to yourself. Even if you suck at whatever it is you’re trying to explore. Your own negative thoughts about your new abilities aren’t going to do much to keep you motivated on your task. Keep at it and don’t give up.  We’re all beginners at some point in our lives. With enough practice and space to continue to fail and learn, you’ll begin to hone and refine your new set of skills.

Be intentional

Set a goal for your explorations, even if that goal is solely to see if you can complete your project. Being intentional about what you are trying to learn and how you are doing it can make it easier to replicate for future projects.

Have fun

I often tell people that creatives bring magic to the world. We take imagined concepts and give them life. How cool is that?

So embrace the magic and remember this exercise should be fun! Your exploration should foster passion for your craft. It should be an exciting and engaging experience that motivates you to do your best work possible.

Here are some examples from our own explorations at team NST:

levitation photoWhat do you do with a step stool, a parking garage and an ab workout? A levitation photo of course.

Green screen exploration aka an excuse to get weird(er than usual).

Featured Music:
“Tropicks” by Broke For Free from the album “Petal
“Tropicks” by Broke For Free from the album “Petal” is licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

“Denser” by Nctrnm
“Denser” by Nctrnm is licensed under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

Are you looking for some creative exploration to take your organization or business work to the next level? Let’s talk about some magic.

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